Suwon wins, opens door to all-Korean final in ACL

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Suwon wins, opens door to all-Korean final in ACL

Suwon Samsung Bluewings reached the Asian Champions League semifinals on Wednesday after beating Iranian club Zob Ahan 2-1 in extra time, raising the prospect of a Korean derby with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the final.

The Bluewings got off to a slippery start at the Foolad Shahr Stadium in Isfahan, surrendering the opening goal in the 50th minute to Mohammad Ghazi who volleyed home from outside the box.

Suwon equalized in the 78th minute when defender Yang Sang-min headed Yeom Ki-hun’s cross into the back of the net and forced the game into extra time.

But Suwon’s two imported players - Stevica Ristic and Mato Neretljak - combined to get the winner seven minutes in when Macedonia’s Ristic was dragged down in the box by defender Mohammad Ahmadi and Croatia’s Neretljak stepped up to convert the penalty.

“My players deserved this because they showed a lot of heart,” Suwon coach Yoon Sung-hyo said afterwards.

“I don’t care which team we face in the semis, I think we have enough self-belief and ability to get to the final.”

Suwon will next face Al Saad, which advanced despite losing 2-1 to Iranian club Sepahan.

The Qatari team, which features Korea defender Lee Jung-soo, won 4-2 on aggregate.

This was more down to Sepahan’s bad luck than anything else as Al Saad was awarded a 3-0 win in the first game despite losing 1-0 when it came to light that the Iranians had fielded an ineligible player.

Meanwhile, Jeonbuk booked its place in the semis on Tuesday by thrashing Cerezo Osaka 6-1 in their second-leg tie. The 2006 champion is scheduled to face Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia.

This marks the first time in five years that two Korean clubs have advanced to the final four and no two have met in a final in the history of the competition.

If either takes the title it will mark the third straight year that a Korean club has come up trumps after Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma won last year and Pohang Steelers did so in 2009.

The semifinals are scheduled for Oct. 19 and Oct. 27 while the final will be held on Nov. 5 at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju, North Jeolla - Jeonbuk’s home ground.

Jeonbuk apologized yesterday for a banner hung by supporters in its quarterfinal against Osaka that made light of this year’s devastating earthquake in Japan.

Officials immediately took down the banner but a complaint was reportedly lodged to the Asian Football Confederation meaning that the club could face disciplinary action.

“We are going through some difficulties right now because of an incident that occurred due to some fans with strange ideas,” the club said on its official Web site.

“We deeply apologize to the people of Japan and football fans who felt let down by this incident. We will make a concerted effort to prevent any recurrences.”

By Joo Kyung-don []
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